In my ever growing collection of quotes and sayings that I try to memorize, the following always sticks out as one of my favorites; “True friendship isn’t about being inseparable, it’s being separated and nothing changes”. This weekend showed, yet again how true this is.
Jennifer and I try to do at least one “adult only” getaway per year with friends. One year it was a cruise, this year it was a weekend trip to Gainesville. Included in the planned activities were drinking, relaxing, eating, tubing, and kayaking. We were successful, with all but the relaxing part. We never sat still, but we had a blast.
Day 1 – Open Bar and Chuy’s
We headed up midday Friday, to our favorite Gainesville hotel “The Lodge”, previously known as Cabot Lodge. It is a Gainesville staple, with friendly staff and large rooms. But it is the large “log cabin-like” lodge and two hour happy hour that keeps us coming back. The hotel was also the lodging for the Junior Olympic swimming competitors too, so our thoughts of being kid free were quickly dashed at check in.
While the kids might have slowed down the lines, it didn’t slow us down at the open bar. Between 5:30 and 7:30, I estimate that we put down four to five drinks each. Thanks to Olivia, the (80+ year old) heavy handed bartender, we sure felt it. The whole time, Paul (AKA Horseman) was being hounded by kids obsessed with him wearing my horsemask.
Our plan was to eat dinner at the Ale House, but since they could not seat a party our size, we headed to Chuy’s. A few drove with Tom, the rest of us walked, since it was only a couple blocks away….we thought. This walk came to be known as Jimmy’s Intervention.
The food and drinks at Chuy’s were both awesome. The Steak Burrito is huge and spicy and the Mexican-Martini is excellent.
Full from Chuy’s, we stopped in Walmart to finish up provisioning for tomorrow, and to give Paul time to try on the tights he had been eyeing. Then back at the hotel, we all played Things and had a blast.
Day 2 – Ichetucknee Springs
We all met down stairs at the breakfast bar to regroup, eat, then head out to Ft. White. We all agreed that the open bar is much better than the free breakfast, deciding to skip it tomorrow morning.
Tom met us at the Ichetucknee north entrance where you drop off tubers and tubes. Tom, Jimmy and I then drove down to the South entrance to park the cars and catch the shuttle bus back. We ended up standing in the wrong place for the shuttle and had to wait for about the fifth bus.
We pushed off from the headwaters, Lisa falling in and Jimmy unable to get back into his raft. Due to all of the rain, the river was running slower than normal. We could definitely feel it.
The tube trip was overall pretty relaxing. Between Jimmy imitating a salmon-catching-grizzly and the snorkel-yeller, we were kept pretty entertained.
We headed back to the cars for lunch, just before the bottom fell out of the clouds. All of us and our stuff were absolutely soaked, so we decided to head back to the hotel early and rest up for tonight.
If there was any doubt that we had not gotten our room-rate’s worth of liquor Friday night, we made up for it tonight. We all drank from 5:30-7:30 non-stop. Tom and Jennifer joined us for the last half hour or so.
With our 15% discount with our room key, Cody’s Roadhouse was chosen as our destination for the night. We arrived, made a ton of noise and had a great time. They were running a special for $14.99, which included Bacon-wrapped Sirloin, Lobster Tail or Crab Legs, Soup, Salad, and dessert. Nearly everyone at the table ordered it and nearly no one could come close to finishing it.
Little did we know, but apparently it was Tom’s birthday (he-he), so we and the wait staff clapped and sang for him. It was awesome. We even got it on video.
After dinner, we all BS’d at the lodge until we couldn’t keep our eyes open.
Day 3 – Kayaking the Santa Fe River
Today started out with everyone meeting at Steak-n-Shake next door for breakfast. I think our days of partaking in The Lodge’s breakfast are long gone, until it is reworked.
We checked out of the hotel and headed back toward High Springs to Adventure Outpost. Lisa and Jimmy decided to sit out today’s activities, due to some intestinal disturbances. Tom and Jennifer also couldn’t join us today, because of other commitments, but another friend from Cocoa High could; Mike Archer. He lives just a few minutes from the Ichetucknee.
After dropping off our cars at the outpost, they shuttled us and our boats to the put on highway 27 on the Santa Fe. This was both Paul and April’s first time in a kayak, so they both were a little apprehensive. April more so, about being so close to the “gator water”.
We decided to paddle 10 miles from hwy 27 to hwy 47, stopping for lunch at Rum Island. The weather was perfect, not to hot or cold. The Mcgee’s quickly got the hang of the boat and then decided they wanted to buy kayaks…as most first timers do.
We stopped stopped for a quick dip at Poe springs. There was hardly anyone there. We then headed further downstream and discovered goats on the left side of the river. Paul went up on shore to “hold” the little one that was calling him “daaaaaaad”.
Lily springs was just after Paul’s goats. This spring is somewhat famous, due to it’s owner Ed Watts, also known as Naked Ed. We paddled in and asked Ed about the goats, which he informed us belonged to his apparent nemesis. Before leaving Paul asked for a picture with him. So Paul being Paul…when in Rome….
We made it to Rum Island just as it was beginning to get cloudy. Much like our day at Ichetucknee, we were about midway through lunch when the bottom fell out; we were drenched. Most of the people at the park were scrambling for their cars. Another Outfitter was there loading up some paddlers in a hurry, and accidentally took one of our paddles. It was a good thing Paul and April has a tandem kayak and could spare a paddle, otherwise the second half of the trip would have been rough.
We waited for the weather to clear up, then we pushed off for the last half of our trip. We passed all the idiots guests at Ginnie Springs, explored side channels and tried to make the most of the “Florida rapids”.
The outfitter picked us up, telling us that a replacement paddle would be $45. Jennifer contacted the other outfitter and found out they did in fact have an extra. Cost averted.
We decided that since we were passing by it on the way home, we would drop in at The Lodge and use the pool to somewhat clean up. This worked out perfectly. Had we the inclination to drink, we could have, as were were there right when the bar opened. Instead we decided, that since we are here and it’s dinner time, lets go to Chuy’s again…so we did.
This trip was a trip that I planned out years ago, to do as a recurring annual getaway with family. We have done it a couple times, with slight variations. This was the first with just friends and no kids.
While I’d seen Tom and Jennifer a few years ago, Paul had not seen him in over 10 years….and it was like not a day went by. It truly was awesome. Everyone enjoyed everyone else company. We laughed, joked, drank, ate, and overall just had an amazing time.
I’m thinking it will not be long before we are up there again.