After our departure on January 1 from Club Naples RV Resort in Naples, Florida, we headed 2-1/2 hours north on I-75 and made Winter Quarters Pasco RV Resort in Lutz, FL our home for the months of January and February. The resort itself is an older park, consisting of approximately 256 sites that surround two small lakes, Lake Lorrie and Pine Lake, which is home to the resident alligator that navigates a chain of lakes in the area. Activities abound at this resort and there is something for everyone to do! One of our favorites there was playing Bingo. We won a lot of the games there, sometimes multiple games in one night. I think that a lot of the residents there were happy when we left so that they’d have a chance to win LOL.
As part of our Christmas gift, our good friends, Arlene & Barry, made a week long reservation at Winter Quarters Pasco so that they could spend time with us while we were in the Tampa area. We had a great time while they were there, as we played Wizard (a fun card game) and explored The Big Cat Sanctuary with them as well.
The Big Cat Sanctuary is one of the world’s largest accredited not for profit sanctuaries for exotic cats, and is a leading advocate in ending the abuse of captive big cats and saving wildcats from extinction. The facility is home to about 80 lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars, servals, and other species most of whom have been abandoned, abused, orphaned, saved from being turned into fur coats, or retired from performing acts. The tour, which is a walking tour, is pretty awesome and the cats are so majestic in their surroundings. Reservations need to be made in advance and general admission is $36.00 per person; however, all of the money paid for admission goes to the care and feedings of these animals. For more information regarding the Big Cat Sanctuary, or to donate to this worthwhile organization, go to: http://bigcatrescue.org.
Below are pictures of Reise, who was born on January 1, 1995.
In addition to touring The Big Cat Sanctuary, the four of us took a tour of the Yuengling Brewery in Tampa. The tour is free to take and doesn’t take that long to complete. It’s rather interesting to see the process of how beer is made, especially in such large quantities. After the tour, each person is offered four samples of their choice of beer to try. I’m not a beer drinker, so hubby got my four samples in addition to his allotment. I did sip them but, as I said, I’m not a beer drinker and didn’t find any of them to my liking. Arlene, Barry, and Dave found their favorites though. For information on touring the Yueling Brewery, go to https://www.yuengling.com/breweries/tampa.
For the past two years, Arlene, Barry, Dave and I have attended the annual Tampa RV Show which features hundreds of RV’s for touring and educational seminars. We literally hit the ground running when we arrive at the show, reviewing as many RV’s as possible and checking out the new vendor exhibits, before the show concludes at the end of the day. It’s always exciting to see what new things that the industry has come out with the new lineup of RV’s and to see if they’ve actually listened to their customers and incorporated what we’ve said that we wanted. The trend in a lot of the new RV’s now seems to be shallower overhead bins in the living area and shallower kitchen cabinets in the kitchen area. When one is a full-time RV’er, that’s not what one wants, as storage plays a significant role in one’s daily lives.
We were saddened when it came time for Arlene and Barry to leave us, as we had such a good time with them exploring the area and playing cards. After we saw them off, we then began to investigate other places to explore.
Our thought process for staying in Tampa for the winter was to purchase annual tickets to Busch Gardens and spend a lot of our time there, (as we had done the previous winter at Disney World), so that we could attend various entertainment shows, visit the animals in the park, and take in a few rides. However, after reading mixed reviews, we decided to first purchase the City Pass tickets, which allows for one day at five different attractions (Busch Gardens, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, The Florida Aquarium, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and your choice of the Museum of Science & Industry, or the Chihuly Collection), for a flat fee of $99 per adult ($89 per child). After figuring up what it would cost to purchase tickets to each one of these attractions, the $99 per person was a deal! (For more information on City Pass, go to: http://www.citypass.com/tampa).
We’re glad that we choose this route too, as Busch Gardens was not our cup of tea. We had been there over 20 years ago when we took our kids there, and much has changed in that timespan. The rides today are mostly stomach churning roller coasters and the entertainment, which used to be open aired seating which anyone could attend, is now an enclosed limited seating venue that one has to get tickets to the morning that the park opens. If the tickets are gone before you get there, then you don’t get to attend the show. The only portion of the park that we both really enjoyed was the animals. Given the cost of the annual tickets to Bush Gardens ($168 per person for non-Florida resident annual pass); we didn’t feel that we would be getting our monies worth, so we decided against purchasing annual passes.
One of the attractions that was on our City Pass, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, we felt was definitely worth getting an annual pass (an annual pass to the park for 1 member and 1 guest is $79; 2 members +1 guest is $105; 2 adults + all kids + 1 guest $149; additional add-on guests are $30). As of January 1 to current date, the zoo is offering a “Zooperpass” where one pays for entrance to the park for 1-day ($29.95 per adult/$22.95 per child ages 3-11) and one can visit the zoo for as often as one wishes (some blackout days apply) any time up until December 31, 2016. That’s an ENTIRE year for $30!! The park itself is very clean, easy to maneuver, logically laid-out, staff is awesome, and the park is so beautiful! The animals are well cared for and although I’m not a huge fan of zoo’s, as I prefer that the animals were in their own natural habitat in the wild, I’m glad that the zoos are there to protect these animals and give them sanctuary where needed. Plan on spending an entire day at this zoo as you’ll need it to see everything. For more information on Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, go to: http://www.lowryparkzoo.org.
The Florida Aquarium is a large scale 250,000 square-foot aquarium and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Situated on two floors, the Aquarium houses, alligators, otters, free-flying birds, pythons, lemurs, chameleons, geckos, Sea Dragons, giant octopus, and so much more! In addition, guests can also add on additional adventures, such as the Wild Dolphin Adventure Cruise; take in a behind the scenes tour or the Penguins backstage pass; or swim/dive with the sharks (must be scuba certified). I would highly suggest spending an entire day here, too. General admission to the Aquarium is $24.95 per adult; $22.95 for seniors (60+); $19.95 for children ages 3-11. If you go online and purchase your tickets, you can generally save a couple of dollars per person. Even the annual memberships to the Aquarium were reasonably priced as well. For more information on The Florida Aquarium, go to http://www.flaquarium.org.
Anyone who has seen the movies Dolphin Tale 1 and Dolphin Tale 2 know the story of Winter the dolphin. Well, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is home to Winter and her dolphin buddy Hope, both of whom are serving the remainder of their lives at the aquarium due to their injuries. In addition to Hope and Winter, The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is also home to Cooper and Walle, both of whom are North American river otters; Ricky, the pelican that played the part of “Rufus” in the movie Dolphin Tale; five different species of sea turtles found in the Gulf of Mexico (two of which are endangered); two sharks named Thelma and Louise; a host of cownose and southern stingrays; as well as eels, fish, seahorses, and crabs. The mission of this facility is dedicated to the preservation of marine life and the environment through education, research, rescue, rehabilitation and release. And it shows. The staff at the aquarium smile from ear to ear when asked a question and the love for their work clearly shines through. One should definitely plan on spending the majority of the day here. General admission for adults is $21.95 per adult; children, ages 3-12 are $16.95 per child; and seniors (age 60+) are $19.95 per senior. For additional information on The Clearwater Marine Aquarium, go to: http://www.seewinter.com.
I have to admit, that when faced with our last City Pass option of choosing either the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) or going to see the Chihuly Collection, I wasn’t too keen on either one, as the MOSI seemed to be more geared to children and the Chihuly Collection, although pretty, wasn’t something that would have held my attention. We chose to take in the MOSI and I’m so glad that we did! Yes, it was pretty much geared toward children, but WOW, it was SO INTERESTING! This place covered EVERYTHING and a lot of the exhibits were quite interactive. We had a great time here! Be sure to check out the educational movie in the IMAX Theater while you’re there, as it’s included in the price of admission and so worth going to see! Plan on spending the entire day here, from opening to closing time, because you will definitely need the time to see it all. General admission is $26.95 per adult; $25.95 per senior (60+); and $20.95 per child ages 3-12. This is the only place that we had to pay for parking, which was $5 per car (free for IMAX only). For information on MOSI, go to: http://www.mosi.org.
During the winter months in Florida, open water temperatures can get below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius), which manatees cannot survive. When the temperatures get below 60 degrees, large numbers of manatees seek refuge in the Big Bend Power Station’s (Apollo Beach, Florida) discharge canal, where saltwater, taken from Tampa Bay to cool the various cooling units, flows clean and warm back to the bay. Their natural source for warmth during winter is warm, spring-fed rivers. Our friends, Jim and Rita, met us at the Manatee Viewing Center at TECO (Tampa Electric Company), to spend the day with us and view these majestic animals, along with sting rays, sharks, tarpons, and a huge variety of fish.
Manatees, mostly herbivorous marine animals (sometimes known as sea cows), are very large, fully aquatic beasts that weigh between 800 to 1,210 lbs. (400 to 550 kilograms), and are approximately 9.2 to 9.8 feet long (2.8 to 3.0 meters). The females tend to be larger and heavier and, when born, baby manatees have an average mass of 66 lbs. (30 kilograms). They have a large, flexible upper lip and they use the lip to gather food and eat, as well as using it for social interactions and communications. The adults have no incisor or canine teeth, just a set of cheek teeth, which are continuously replaced throughout life, with new teeth growing at the rear as older teeth fall out from farther forward in the mouth. The only other mammals that this occurs in are the kangaroo and elephant. At any given time, a manatee typically has no more than six teeth in each jaw of its mouth. Wow, just think of the dollars that we’d save from dental bills if we had that kind of continual tooth system!
The only causes of death for manatees are human-related issues, such as habitat destruction and human objects, such as ingested fishing gear while feeding (hooks, monofilament line or string, metal weights, etc.) and ship strikes. Natural causes of death include adverse temperatures and disease, such as red tide. For more information on the Manatee Viewing Center at TECO, go to: http://www.tampaelectric.com/company/mvc.
Although we had a wonderful time in Tampa exploring new territory, both of us felt as though Tampa was not the place for us, due to the high traffic volume and general high cost of things. We’ve come to love the Clermont area, which is close to Disney World and Orlando, and will be returning there when we venture back to Florida.