Weeki Wachee

I stop every few miles to get things like boiled peanuts and pecan rolls. I also buy a crate of oranges for eleven bucks. You can’t beat it.

My wife and I are leaving for Weeki Wachee, Florida, on a sunny morning. It’s supposed to be fall, but the joke is on us. It is still 320 degrees Fahrenheit outside even though it’s October.

This morning, for example, after packing the car I had to change clothes because I was sweating worse than a chubby kid doing Zumba in the attic.

We’re traveling to Weeki Wachee, of course, because of mermaids. Real mermaids. They are legendary mermaids who have been performing underwater shows since Harry Truman was in office. They swim. They do backflips. They blow kisses to lucky schmucks in the audience. I am hoping to be one such schmuck.

All my life I have wanted to see these Floridian mermaids swim underwater from the famous 450-seat aquarium theater.

Once when I was a child, we got all the way to Hernando County and actually stood outside the attraction gates, but the doors were locked and the place was closed. So we ended up eating at a rundown buffet and buying a bunch of lacquered gator heads as Christmas presents for family members.

The ride to Middle Florida is a fairly uneventful one. My wife and I take turns driving. When she drives, I nap. When I drive, she gives me instructions on how to drive because I am male and therefore not smart enough to pull up my own underpants let alone pilot an automobile.

She shouts things like: “PUT ON YOUR BLINKER, DUMMY!”

“NO! NO! NO! STOP! IT’S A YELLOW LIGHT!”

“I THINK YOU JUST RAN OVER THAT OLD WOMAN AND HER LITTLE SHIH TZU!”

But there is nothing like a Floridian drive to put you in a good mood. Today, the scenery is unbeatable. We see open fields and fat oaks laden with moss.

Pretty soon, we are in the middle of nowhere and we lose cell-phone reception. I get a little excited about this because I know that nearby are quality vegetable stands. This is a law of nature. There are always good vegetable stands in places without cell service.

On our drive, we pass other interesting things, too:

—A man with his elbow hanging out the window of a rusty Pontiac Fiero. He’s drinking a beer and texting. At the same time.

—A woman riding in the bed of a pickup truck, playing on an iPad.

—Jerry’s Gator Lagoon.

—A billboard which reads, “Hell is real.”

—Factory Connection.

I stop every few miles to get things like boiled peanuts and pecan rolls. I also buy a crate of oranges for eleven bucks. You can’t beat it.

We pull over at a gas-station-gift-shop. This is where I hit the mother lode. Lacquered gator heads for $11.99 each. I buy six because you never know when a deal like this is going to come along again.

I’m ready to checkout, but the women behind the register don’t notice me. They are involved in a conversation about something important.

One lady says, “So I told him, ‘You think I’m mad now, Jason? Just wait until I catch you around Sharon’s house again. They’ll put me in prison after what I do to you.’”

“Sharon?” said the other. “From church?”

“That’s the one.”

“Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free?”

“He don’t know how close he is to meeting Jesus.”

Jason better hide the steak knives tonight.

More driving. We pass trailer parks, sod farms, vacuum repair centers, and used car dealerships. We pull over to get our picture taken with a large fiberglass manatee sculpture. The thing is the size of an elephant.

My wife and I have to do a selfie since nobody is around to hold the camera. This takes several attempts because, according to my wife, if you take a selfie while holding the camera at too low of an angle, you look like a fat garden slug.

We drive by a lot of newly constructed Floridian real estate. Which is hard for me to look at. I am not a fan of huge subdivisions that are big enough to have their own forms of civic government.

But that’s Florida for you, we’re always building new stuff. New neighborhoods. New shopping centers. Every day, somewhere in Florida, they bulldoze some kid’s fort to build another Red Lobster.

Mister Big Shot Real Estate Developer comes to town, probably from Jersey, or somewhere where they say “you guys.” He cuts a few hundred acres of pine and replaces it with one-story stucco houses and a ten-acre drainage ditch disguised to look like a lily pond.

But I digress.

We pull into the one-horse town of Weeki Wachee. It’s sunset. The old roadside motor-inns are evidence of an older age of tourism that’s gone now. After all these years, this place is still perfect. I knew it would be.

My wife is sleeping in the passenger seat. I do a little gesture that married people often do. It’s so small that you might miss it if you weren’t paying attention.

I place my hand on hers. I leave it there. I almost give her a kiss but I don’t want to wake her.

She opens her eyes. She gives a gentle smile. And she shouts, “STOP! STOP! STOP! THE LIGHT’S TURNING YELLOW, STUPID!”

It won’t be long now.

Bring on the mermaids.

32 comments

  1. Lucretia - October 3, 2019 7:10 am

    not sure how I feel yet about this . . .

    Reply
  2. Meredith Smith - October 3, 2019 9:55 am

    God Bless Jamie. My driving privileges stopped approximately 10 years ago when my seizures became too acute to pilot a car safely. Unfortunately I never know when the seizure is going to come and if I’m in traffic, things can get messy, or even potentially lethal. I have however become an excellent passenger, it seems much like Jamie. My eyesight still works great and when there are 4 eyes driving the car, it gets loud in the cabin. The most common report is: TURN ON YOUR FLIPPIN’ BLINKER! (Why he can’t learn that after just a few times is besides me). And the next is THE LIGHT IS GREEN when traffic has started moving and 25 car lengths has developed between the car ahead of us. Cars behind us are honking and it is, again, getting ugly. Despite my condition I am remarkably quick to watch our surroundings. I guess that’s bc that’s all I have to do.
    All I can say is, I sure hope my condition improves soon bc we BOTH can’t be nondrivers in our little 2person family. We have too many years ahead of us. So I am casually referred to Eagle Eye Drivers’ Ed nowadays whenever we hop into the car. Not a label I would choose for myself…I’d rather be called DRIVER. But now knowing I have something in common with Jamie, I’ll take it. ☺️

    Reply
  3. beth moore - October 3, 2019 9:58 am

    I smiled as soon as I saw the title this morning. We lived in Florida for just a few years when our kids were little. We were about an hour south of WW. There’s nothing a preschool girl loves more than mermaids- and my daughter was in luck! Real mermaids so close to home. So many special days were spent there. She’s a teenager now and we live in the Midwest so it’s been years since we been, although I’m certain it’s exactly the same since Elvis was there. Thanks for the reminder of those special memories!

    Reply
  4. Deb S - October 3, 2019 10:03 am

    Heehee. I wonder how many other people are googling Jerry’s Gator Lagoon. Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  5. Ed - October 3, 2019 10:16 am

    Go get your morning BM out of the way Lucretia and you’ll feel much better about your whole day.

    Reply
  6. GaryD - October 3, 2019 10:34 am

    I’ve always wanted to go to Weeki Wachee. Never did. It’s too late for me…

    Reply
  7. Susie - October 3, 2019 11:43 am

    Many laughs this am. Thanks, love it.

    Reply
  8. Terri - October 3, 2019 11:56 am

    They are mowing down every tree in sight in my part of Georgia as well Sean. It’s not just Florida. Funny, they call it progress…. Love you much.

    Reply
  9. that's jack - October 3, 2019 12:37 pm

    I thought WW was where the girls stood on each other’s shoulders and ski’d in a pyramid? We never got over there I saw it in a movie or something once. Good read though, change seats, no need in both of you driving!
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  10. Phil S, Montgomery, AL - October 3, 2019 1:20 pm

    Sean, I always love your reflections and opinion on the “good old days.” You have a way of sending some of us on trips of nostalgia that are special. You and I are on the same wavelength about too much blacktop. Suggest you check youtube for “No Changin’ Us” by Point of Grace. Annie Chapman recorded it originally, I think. Beautiful song.
    BTW, my wife and Jamie are also on the same wavelength about their husbands’ driving. I’m really lucky because when we go on trips my wife does all the driving. Once in a while she even gets behind the wheel.

    Reply
  11. Melanie - October 3, 2019 1:25 pm

    I have always wanted to go there! Long drive for me. 3,000 miles. But I do hope to go. Can’t wait to hear all about it. Thank you Sean 🧜🏼‍♀️🧜🏼‍♂️

    Reply
  12. Anne Morrow - October 3, 2019 1:26 pm

    While you’re down that way, Sean, why don’t you drive on over to Yee Haw, Florida? I have relatives who have moved to that little crossroads. I’m sure you’d find lots of material to write about in that fair spot. No development there. A paradise for sure.

    Reply
  13. Jess - October 3, 2019 1:36 pm

    Sean, I agree with you about how Florida has been transformed over the last fifty years from a lot of natural beauty to houses, shopping centers, rest homes, etc. That’s one reason after I retired from the Army I didn’t go back to my home state. I’m a fourth generation Floridian, but I can’t stand what has happened to my once beautiful state. I miss it.

    Reply
  14. GEORGIA SASSER - October 3, 2019 2:14 pm

    Welcome to Hernando County . I have lived about 20 miles east of WW for 45 years.A lot has changed in that time. Enjoy your visit but take in some more sites too. If you follow Hwy 50 E about 25 miles you will come to Spring Lake Hwy, turn s about 2 miles you will find Boyette Groves. They are a family run grove with a small animal zoo. It has been in operation for years and the people who run it are extraordinary. The owner was beat and robbed and left for dead years ago, a story of how the community stood up and helped to keep it running while he recovered. Take a chance and drive over, there is another story for tomorrow here. Also at the corner of Spring Lake and Hwy 50 is Papa Joes Italian restaurant. Another story in its self. It burned down a couple of years ago and how the community rallied behind them.

    Reply
  15. Edna B. - October 3, 2019 2:20 pm

    I have to agree about there being too much new construction going on in Florida. We need to keep more of our natural resources. Wildlife and trees. Instead of building new buildings, why not rehab all the ones that have closed up and now sit idle. Sean, enjoy your mermaids and have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  16. Harriet - October 3, 2019 2:39 pm

    Ed – hahahaha! Funny!!
    Sean- LOVE this post! Developers are something else. They gravitate towards beauty then destroy it, it’s sickening. I try not to look also.

    Reply
  17. Mary T. - October 3, 2019 3:24 pm

    Been there many, many years ago. Makes me want to go back.

    Reply
  18. Vicki - October 3, 2019 3:45 pm

    Thank you for taking me back to wonderful childhood memories! I LOVE WW and I am so happy to hear it is still open!

    Reply
  19. Mike - October 3, 2019 3:53 pm

    My brother in law I chuleota, Florida says “if God wanted you to drive he would have put a steering wheel and pedals on the passenger side”.

    Reply
  20. Linda Moon - October 3, 2019 4:20 pm

    I went to Weeki Wachee when Dwight Eisenhower was in office. I was a lucky child-schmuck who got mermaid kisses blown to me. My ride down there with two single moms and their kids became eventful when we picked up a hitch-hiker. He was nice, not like the ones in horror movies. I think your wife recorded some of my driving instructions when I might have left my cell phone on, and she used them for your instructions. One time my late beloved son-in-law inadvertently left his phone on while teaching and disciplining a class of middle-schoolers. Listening to it was a hoot! But I digress. I’m very happy that you and your wife are travelling and hopefully getting some R&R in that perfect place!!

    Reply
  21. Janet Mary Lee - October 3, 2019 4:22 pm

    One of the things I love here is MOST of the readers are endowed with a good sense of kindness. Although not always..apparently.
    Seems there might be some hurt or memory behind her comment.

    Reply
  22. Janet Mary Lee - October 3, 2019 4:26 pm

    One of the things I love most about the comments are how kind MOST people are, though apparently not everyone, Ed.
    Seems there might be some memory or hurt behind that comment.

    Reply
  23. Carol P Jones - October 3, 2019 5:38 pm

    After reading this I had to Google Weeki Wachee, Fl. I LOVE it says Population 12! “As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 12, a figure unchanged from the 2000 census” No developers there..Thank God! Love your stories!

    Reply
  24. Shelton A. - October 3, 2019 8:07 pm

    Hope you had your breath taken away, got your ‘smooch-at’ and Jamie lets you live. Glad also you found some treasures along the way, especially the oranges and gator heads.

    Reply
  25. Kizma Anuice - October 3, 2019 8:15 pm

    Fieros do not rust. They had a plastic body

    Reply
  26. Jimpa - October 3, 2019 8:29 pm

    That was Cypress Garden.

    Reply
  27. Linda Moon - October 3, 2019 9:06 pm

    To Janet Mary: My memories of Weeki Wachee are all good, especially since the hitch-hiker wasn’t an ax murdererer! I will always miss my son-in-law, but I have lots of good memories of him. If you got me confused with Ed, I’m just clearing it up! I am kind, with a little sarcasm mixed in.

    Reply
  28. Guy T. - October 3, 2019 9:21 pm

    Just a matter of time before those dadgummed Yankees ruin our little “state of paradise”! We should’ve won the war, that way they’d be planting palm trees in Central Park! Great stuff, Sean—you regularly kick start my day!

    Reply
  29. Linda Moon - October 3, 2019 9:24 pm

    To Sherry & Jack: I think the pyramid skiers were in Cypress Gardens. I was there long ago, so I’m trying to “trust” my wonderful memories instead of Googling it (but, I might double-check with the google later!). There was a movie with Esther Williams skiing in a pyramid, ….but again, I’m going by memory instead of Google!

    Reply
  30. Dru Brown - October 4, 2019 10:57 am

    Hilarious. And so sharp! The beer drinker is my favorite detail. I didn’t know the mermaids were still there! Maybe I will put Weeki Watchee on my bucket list. Good morning, Sean and Jamie! You have helped mine considerably.

    Reply
  31. Sandrs - October 6, 2019 3:54 am

    I think that’s Cypress Springs?

    Reply
  32. Jan - October 8, 2019 2:06 am

    Yep. It was Cypress Springs. As a teen it was my favorite place to visit when we went to see my Grandma and Grandpa.

    Reply

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