The Traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has com to seeGilbert E. Chesterton
It has always amazed me how much a place changes over time. Even animated objects seem to grow and mature as the season changes, much like a child. Some of them change for the better, while others change for the worse.
It is a reminder, in some ways, that even rocks never stay the same.
Back in fourth grade, my parents believed I was old enough to start to travel and remember what I saw. We took a road trip around Florida. And even though our last stop was Disney, my parents wanted me to see the real Florida before studying it.
They loaded my dad’s station wagon with suitcases and camping equipment (this would also be the last time we camped, it turns out we like hotels much better) and headed North. Part camping trip, and part we are off to see the world, we spent two weeks exploring Florida.
One place that stuck in my memory from that long-ago trip was Silver Springs. Part amusement park, part zoological park, and part ecological park. Visitors could test their courage on rides, meet Florida’s wildlife, or look at the springs from a glass-bottom boat. This was the place I tried to steal a snake.
On an overcast day, while visiting my parents, we decided to revisit this place. This time, with my fur-child, Skyy, along. It turns out Silver Springs no longer has its rides, but still stays open as a state park. Dogs are allowed in the garden, except on the glass bottom boat, which was OK with us because Skyy doesn’t do too well in moving vehicles.
The sign, the fountain, and the bridge have stayed the same. I can remember walking across it as a child, excited about the activities for the day ahead.
Once we paid the fees, we wander around the park. For the most part, the gardens are kept natural, with Florida wildflowers and cypress trees. Most of the rides and attractions are long gone, but there are hints of the past. I remember the white house in the distance; I couldn’t tell you what it was used for. It was an old antebellum-looking place, may be used for some sort of show or a chance to see how Floridians lived before the railroad came down.
We walked around the path, talking about what we remember about the place. Skyy had fun sniffing every flower, tree, and squirrel she came across. A couple of times, I had to stop her to remove all the souvenirs from her fur.
Hint: If you bring your dog, bring a brush, especially if they have long fur, because they will pick up a lot of tagalongs.
She was also very interested in the water. Every place we stopped on the path, her little nose when over the railing to look down at the water.
We finished up by having a quick snack at the snack bar and allowing Skyy to have some water.
She was exhausted when we got back to the car and slept the whole hour drive back to my parents’ place.
It should have been sad to see what had become of a place I had loved and had such great memories. But in some ways, Silver Springs change was inevitable. It had been fun and exciting in its youth and adulthood, but now it had hit retirement age, stepped back, and became slower pace.
It had become another reminder of Florida’s Gold Age of Tourism.
But even the rock changes in time.