Travel Diary
December 20, 2002
Tampa, FL

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We've finally achieved our goal of living in the 70s and sunny. The weather here in Tampa has been perfect. Not too hot or humid, and enough clouds for the sky to be pretty, but no more.

We parked the house at Lazy Days, one of the largest RV dealers in the country. They have a campground that is a short drive to downtown Tampa. They have over 1000 RVs in stock. We felt glad that of the few RVs we saw, we like our house much better. It is truly an amazing place, though. There is a Flying J (fuel stop that offers a discount for RVers), a Cracker Barrel restaurant, and a Camping World store all on the same site as Lazy Days.

We went to see the manatees at the Tampa Electric Company. It seems that back in the mid-80s, the manatees realized that the water the local power plant was using in the cooling process was keeping the channel next to the plant warmer than the bay. As a result, the manatees took to hanging out in the nice warm water. The site is now a protected wildlife area, and they set up a viewing platform where you can watch the manatees. We decided that manatees are sort of like aquatic hippos, and they certainly seemed relaxed as they swam slowly around in the warm shallow water.

Swimming manatee

Busch Gardens has 5 hippos in their animal collection. They have 2 couples, and one of the couples had a baby hippo just over a year ago. The baby is almost as large as her mother, but still has a bit more pink colored skin. The exhibit was wonderful as you could see the hippos swimming in their pool. We were lucky to catch them during one of the swim portions of their hippopotamus game and got this picture of Moxie, the baby, in the pool.

A real hippo playing the Hippopotamus Game

The food in Tampa worked out well too. We found Mel's Hot Dog stand. Mel serves up Chicago style Vienna Beef hot dogs with all of the fixings. Complete with poppy-seed buns.

Mel's Hot Dogs

We also found the Florida Botanical Gardens. These gardens were much different than ones we've seen farther north. They had a tropical fruit garden with many types of banana trees. They also had papaya, kumquat, and pineapple plants. They had an interesting tree that was graft of two types of oranges and a lime tree. They called it a fruit salad tree. There were also many different types of palm trees. There were also lots of interesting pretty flowers that didn't make it feel like December at all.

Florida Botanical Gardens

For our last night in Tampa we went to see the Tampa Lightning hockey team play the Toronto Maple Leafs. We were surprised by the large number of Toronto fans in attendance, but they were happy as the Leafs won 2-1.

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