A lot of Realtors/developers may not be that interested in preserving the environment. But contrary to widespread belief, some of them are, in fact, capable of appreciating it. And Gary Schraut, knowing how much I like canoeing, has been relentless in talking up the beauty of the barrier islands and salt marshes off the Hernando County coast and the fun of paddling around them in a kayak.
So, because I've made it a mission to tour and write about local rivers and lakes, I figured I might as well as expand my list of destinations to include the Gulf of Mexico.
My older son and I were determined to get to the coast at a teenager's version of the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning, meaning it was 10 a.m. by the time we arrived Bayport Park.
It's gorgeous out there on a clear fall day. Just sitting on the dock, tending a fishing pole or a crab trap, watching soaring gulls, pelicans and shimmering whitecaps kicked up by a brisk wind, would be an outstanding use of any day off.
Getting out on a boat is even better, which is why this place has become a regional draw. So, even though I was out there for recreation, it is election season and I couldn't help but be reminded that the facilities at Bayport are a perfect illustration of an issue on the November ballot.
The construction of boat ramps, the canoe/kayak slip, the picnic pavilions and the ample parking — as well as all of the other facilities that have made this so attractive to residents in and out of the county — were paid for by Hernando's environmentally sensitive lands program. You can vote to continue to invest in it at the rate of just slightly more than $5 a year. Please do.
My son and I made use of that slip and a brisk tailwind to quickly get to the isolated maze of channels running through plains of black needle rush and mangrove islands, schools of mullet rippling the surface of the water all around us like it was feeding time at a trout farm.
We found a sandy beach for a snack, which is when we realizing that the high winds that had been forecast were really starting to kick up, and that we'd have to paddle furiously just to make it back to Bayport across a couple of miles of open water.
We did, taking in some good scenery and an even better, if somewhat frantic, workout.
Driving home, we stumbled upon Weekifest, with vendors and music packed into the small parking lot BeckyJack's Food Shack on Cortez Boulevard.
Hadn't eaten there since shortly after it opened, and if no waterside community is complete without a salty, distinctive, kicked-back, bar/restaurant, then Weeki Wachee can now count itself as a fully realized coastal destination. Because this place is great.
Good service, walls crowded with non-hokey maritime-related artifacts, and the best, most generously sized fish sandwich I've had in years. Imagine a plank of tender fish the size of the sole of one of Shaquille O'Neal's basketball shoes, coated in crispy, perfectly browned cornflakes.
Felt just little guilty, though, crunching and oohing and ahhing my way through it, that my vegetarian son had only a basket of french fries with which to occupy himself.
So, yeah, a veggie burger on the menu would definitely increase the chances that people like me, with non-flesh-eating loved ones, will be able to visit more than once.
Update on the ongoing cold war between motorists and cyclists in Spring Lake and eastern Pasco County:
Riding south in a group on Spring Lake Highway, we heard a horn blowing from behind, and when it hadn't stopped after a minute or two, some of us guessed what turned out to be the case: The notorious guy in a maroon Jeep Cherokee, who seems to seek out cyclists to harass, was passing us slowly, horn still blaring, sticking his thumb out the window, pointed down.
Just ignore him, most of us said. But a few knuckleheads rode out into the left lane, to block him, exposing themselves to the danger of the clearly unstable guy behind the wheel of Jeep and oncoming traffic. Then the biggest knucklehead among them threw a water bottle with a thud into the side of the Jeep.
There's a theory that most of the friction on these roads would disappear if not for a few of the biggest jerks on both sides.
Sounds about right to me.