We’re starting to think Texas - El Paso, to be specific. As we plan our route from Florida westward, what should we know? Who should we meet along the way? What stories should we tell along the banks of the Rio Grande? How many verses of “Deep in the Heart of Texas” do we need to memorize?
Austin, Texas. November 2016.
Apologies for a slow blog this past week - we’ve been on the move. These past five days brought us through the Everglades and down the Key West - and then back up across Florida. We were told this week that alligators don’t dash in a zig-zag, so, we took that advice to heart and we zigged, zagged, and otherwise wandered the giant State.
Pictured above is just one of the connections we made on the trip, Charles and his parrot Jelly Roll. Charles has lived in Key West since the 90s, although the open road is still calling his name.
As we work our way through the backlog of photos, we’ll be sharing more and more stories.
Now we can boast that we’ve been to the southernmost point of the continental United States - and we stood in the line of tourists for the photo op to prove it!
Key West, Florida. January 22, 2018.
In 1946, Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy man who trained Navy Frogmen to swim underwater in World War II, scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business. At the time, U.S. 19 was a small two-lane road. All the other roads were dirt; there were no gas stations, no groceries, and no movie theaters. More alligators and black bears lived in the area than humans.
Sadly, the spring was full of old rusted refrigerators and abandoned cars. The junk was cleared and Newt experimented with underwater breathing hoses and invented a method of breathing underwater from a free-flowing air hose supplying oxygen from an air compressor, rather than from a tank strapped to the back. With the air hose, humans could give the appearance of thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus.
Submerged six feet below the water’s surface, an 18-seat theater was built into the limestone so viewers could look right into the natural beauty of the ancient spring.
Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a non-carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets. He then put a sign out on U.S. 19 that read: WEEKI WACHEE. And on October 13, 1947, the first show at the Weeki Wachee Springs underwater theater opened. It was the same day that Kukla, Fran and Ollie first aired on that newfangled invention called television, and one day before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. On that day, the mermaids performed synchronized ballet moves underwater while breathing through the air hoses hidden in the scenery.
However, in those days, cars were few along U.S. 19. When the girls heard a car coming, they ran to the road in their bathing suits to beckon drivers into the parking lot, just like sirens of ancient lore lured sailors to their sides. Then they jumped into the spring to perform.
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Behind the scenes on an “off-roading” adventure on a road. Here Justin uses a very advanced tool (ie: a stick) to check the depth of a surprise pond after a heavy rain.
Dixie County, Florida. January 2018