Florida Bass Fishing 2024 – February 27 and 28, 2024 – Heading Home

February 27, 2024. Last night, I was sitting outside the Hontoon Resort and Marina when a man–perhaps 65–walked up with a drink in his hand. He said hello, introduced himself by telling me his name and that he was is from Dexter, Michigan, a small town in southeast Michigan. We chatted for a bit and I learned that his wife is an RN and works two days a week at a nearby hospital, while he retired as a Christmas tree farmer. They rented a room at Hontoon Landing Resort for a full month. On days when she works, he goes fishing and has to prepare dinner. Not a bad gig.

Indeed, we love Hontoon Landing Resort. We only saw people in their 60s and 70s while we were there–people rowing, fishing, or renting a boat to take family for a ride on the St. John’s River. It is quiet. The workers are pleasant. I hope that even when they replace their previously flooded office/gift shop/mini restaurant into a full-fledged restaurant things remain quiet.

With few people around, we also could interact with the local wildlife, including this fella. I put out a piece of ham on a table, and while the lizard was interested, it either couldn’t pick up the little ham bit or decided it wasn’t what it’d hoped for.

I said goodbye to my lizard buddy and wished him well.

I stood down by the water’s edge to take in the view one more time. In the few minutes I was there I saw two bubble patterns, one representing an adult manatee, the other, a baby manatee. This video shows the bubble pattern. I ran down river onto another dock but didn’t have my phone video on when the mom and baby came to the surface for air. It was an adorable sight I won’t soon forget.

The image to the right is a clear pattern of a mother and baby manatee; the one above is less obvious but another bubble pattern manatees make.

Before we checked out, I did a panoramic video. The room we were in is the second from left on the lower level.

When I took our keys to check out at the office, I ran into two turkeys. After I captured this video of the two turkeys I asked the worker at the office about the turkeys and she said they’d just recently started showing up. Mark and I had seen several turkeys on the island across the river in past years; I wondered if their habitat had gotten messed up due to the hurricane…just like the largemouth bass.

I turned in our keys, told the lady how pleasant our time was and that we hoped to return again one day. I bought Mark a souvenir bobber, we jumped into the truck and headed down the quiet, winding road one last time.

By ten o’clock we’d reached Quarantine Island in Jacksonville, FL and crossed this bridge again, which is one of my favorite bridges. There are so many bridges in the US that are cement-sided structures designed simply to push vehicles back into traffic, so I really like bridges that look like, well, bridges. I might have gotten that from my Grandfather Peterson, a civil engineer for the city of Sturgis.

In Brunswick, GA, we stopped to get gas, and while Mark was inside using the bathroom I pumped gas and noticed a male and female grackle nearby. I threw out tiny bits of a granola bar, and the next thing I knew, I had attracted two, then four, then a dozen grackles, all coming in to get some food.

After Mark came out, I had him take a video of me feeding the grackles. Afterwards, we returned to the truck and I took another video of a female grackle sitting on our side mirror while other grackles dive-bombed her. When I ran out of granola, Mark gave me an oatmeal cookie he’d just bought. He also gave me bites of an ice cream sandwich he was stuffing in his face.

This stop was my favorite stop during our vacation. I was so impressed that the grackles were so gentle, especially since their toes and beak are so pointy.

In South Carolina I noticed that the state of SC was cutting down trees in the median and shoulder just like Michigan was doing. I suspected it was due to a lawsuit of some kind, where someone went off the road and hit a tree and died. And in response, more trees–some of which had to be well over 100 years old–are being cut down in SC and Michigan. What a shame.

We stopped in Jonesville, SC when I felt I could drive no more, and stumbled upon another Hilton, and this time, with an amazing Mexican restaurant 1/2 mile away. There were no sidewalks, and the road to the restaurant super busy, so we had to drive. But it was an amazing dinner–in fact, one of my faves of the trip. The menu and paintings on the wall of the restaurant were awesome.

At left, Mark enjoying an amazing dinner. Above, the snacks waiting for hungry people at the Hilton. We did not partake.

February 28, 2024. Unfortunately, I don’t shower in the evening, because if I did and realized our tub didn’t drain, I would have asked for another room. Indeed, if there’s one thing that completely disgusts me, it’s a tub that doesn’t drain in a motel room. It’s unsanitary, and it suggests to me that either the cleaning staff didn’t bother actually cleaning the tub (because if they had, they would have realized it wasn’t draining) OR the cleaning staff told maintenance and they did nothing about it. Standing in my own dirty bathwater is one thing, but imagining it backing up somebody else’s bathwater is enough to make me hurl.

Even worse, when I reported the problem, the clerk at the counter asked me if I had showered the night before and if I was just now telling him. As if it was my fault somehow? When I said no, he said he’d call maintenance. I said that didn’t help me because we awere leaving. I told him it suggested an overall unclean room and he said he’d get maintenance there soon. In the end, his response was just as disappointing as whatever the cleaning/maintenance staff didn’t do. A fail all the way around.

While I left the motel grumpy, by 9:15 something put life in perspective–an accident involving a semi truck that had turned on its side and lost its entire content of plywood. The road was closed on the other side and the line of stationary trucks went on for at least five miles.

We went through the tunnels again in West VA and by 10:00 we got near Handley. I took an exit to spend two minutes by a roaring river. I love white water. I love rivers. I only wish I had more time to just sit by such…though would prefer one not along a busy highway.

Ten minutes later, in East Bank, it started pouring and my drive became a lot less fun. I was, though, very thankful that Mark had bought new tires for the truck before we left.

We reached a toll booth, where I smiled at the advertisement on the toll booth, taken from my all-time favorite singer and songwriter.

In Ohio, we stopped at a rest area, where I saw for the first time, an opioid overdose kit. I don’t stop at rest areas a lot and wondered when these first started showing up.

We got home after two days on the road. The next day, we picked up the dogs from their favorite vacation place other than the cabin–Nana N Paws in Grand Ledge. They had quite a bit to say to us on the way home as shown in this video.

Over the course of the next few days, I downloaded photos from my Nikon and began blogging about our trip. I also submitted three photos to the Florida Trophy Catch program. Within a week after submitting my photos, I received the letter to the left, below, congratulating me on my catch and telling me two gift cards would be coming in the mail and that I was entered into a drawing for a new bass boat at the end of the year. In addition, my photo appeared on their web site. Shout out to the Florida Trophy Bass Program for making happy people even happier about their lucky time on the waters in Florida.

And with that, I spent the next month blogging about this awesome trip, and firming up plans for our next trip.

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