Day 9: February 4, 2012
Weeki Wachee Wow!
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I spent my night in Palm Harbor at the Lake Tarpon Resort. Although it was a little over my target budget it was hardly outrageous and quite nice. There was even a bar with a good live cover band and many locals in attendance. I somehow failed to get a picture of the front of the place but did get some from and in my room.

About halfway between Tarpon Springs and Holiday I spotted a Dixie Highway sign which led me to a mile of old alignment I didn't know was even there. No dirt road here. This is clearly a popular and well maintained road.

There is also some old DH alignment connecting Holiday and Port Richey then, several miles north, the Old Dixie swings away from US-19 to go through Aripeka. These pictures are from that section. In looking at a map later, I realized I could have picked up the old alignment much sooner near Hudson so I already have a reason to return. I couldn't quite tell what the critter on the sign was so I kept my eyes peeled for both anteaters and long nosed bears but saw neither.

I stopped and walked a bridge to get some pictures looking over the Gulf of Mexico. There was a single truck parked nearby and a man stood on each side of the bridge staring at the water. The next bridge I crossed would have several men fishing with poles and there was ample evidence that such was sometimes the case here but these guys had nets. While I focused on the big water, I heard a splash and turned to watch one fellow pull in his empty net. Before I got into my car, I looked back to see an empty bridge and the two men climbing into the truck. No fish today.

Roadside America calls this a "dinosaur gas station" so I actually had hopes of refueling here but it currently has no pumps and only does service such as oil changes. Plus it was closed today.

The dream of a lifetime fulfilled at last. This was my first visit to Weeki Wachee Springs and the place completely met, nay, exceeded, my long held expectations. This is what a roadside attraction should be. It is now a Florida state park but it is certainly unlike any other state park I've seen. On the other hand, while it does exploit the clear warm waters of the natural spring, it also protects them as seems fitting for a state park (and wise for a roadside attraction). It really is the middle of winter so the wet rides of Buccaneer Bay weren't operating but just about everything else was including the riverboat cruise and kayak rentals. There is even a coin operated injection molding machine.

But it's the mermaids that I've come to see. They are all remarkable beauties and all are exceptional athletes. Underwater dining, synchronized maneuvers, and weightless dance routines are all there plus a dive to 171 feet. An air hose accompanies the diver on the way down but it comes up first and the mermaid holds her breath as she rises plus a bit longer after she is back in view. It totals two minutes and thirty-two seconds!

The Tampa-Saint Petersburg Loop ends when it reaches the western Dixie Highway trunk at Ocala. There I picked up I-75 -- and the pace -- and headed north.

I spent a couple more nights on the road but really did no more sightseeing. Even though it's slightly out of sequence, this photo of Mermaid Karri seems a good way to end the trip. Definitely the catch of the day.

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