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Gulf Area Treasures: Braden and Manatee Rivers

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Driving across the state after an early release for work should have been enough time to get us to our destination in Bradenton prior to sunset, however, it was dark when we arrived to Encore Winter Quarters Manatee. This large rv park was complete with two clubhouses, multiple pools, an all-new bathhouse with new laundry facility, and over 400 sites.  Pet friendly and full of seasonal and long-term residents, this park served us well for our two night stay while also being close enough to dear friends who were able to head over and catch up after months of separation with summer travel and such.

Once settled into our spot, we were able to grill our Koegel’s Vienna style hotdogs and enjoy mom’s signature pasta salad before settling into a long game of Phase 10.  Charlie went to bed, after a five-star review of the bathhouse, looking forward to a day on the water. Dad and I took our time getting familiar with the property by going on a long walk throughout the entire park and got to meet some of the staff and neighbors while on our journey; it was a nice way to spend the evening.

Next morning, we were up and on the headed towards the State Road 64 Boat Ramp by 10am. Sadly, we saw no bait shops on our way into the park nor leaving the park and headed to the water, so we decided to forgo any fishing. Rather, we made it a mission to really explore the two rivers were planning to visit during this trip. River #81 the Braden River. Though it was low tide and very shallow, we went south for quite a bit before heading into the Manatee River.  If we had gone left, we would have hit the Anna Maria Island (with that as mom’s name it seemed like a great place to go) and the Gulf. We went east instead and passed several businesses on the water before hitting the Manatee River Conservation Area full of wildlife, mangroves, and natural old Florida beauty.

A few hours later we were headed in. I watched with envy all the fun and music happening at Woodys’ on the water as we turned back onto the Braden River from the Manatee our #82nd. Once back in our truck, we stopped by Publix to grab some dessert and fresh mixers to offer when hosting our friends who happen to live in Bradenton. Right on time our pals, the Kings, arrived with chicken wings from Woody’s as their contribution to our evening of reconnection.  Can you even begin to imagine how excited I was for those yummy wings? They were delicious and plentiful, so much so that after a few drinks and stories of summer travels, no one was hungry for the dinner we were going to prepare of marinated pork chops, mac and cheese, and green beans. Instead, I sent the Kings on home with a heaping plate of tuna pasta salad instead and a great gift idea for them come Christmas (bottles for brining liquid with them during travel).

With two more rivers under our belts, we all slept easy and deeply. That Sunday, Charlie and I woke up early and took Seger on a nice long walk before we broke down the campsite so there was not much to finalize once dad finally awoke to drive us home the 3 hours it takes with a brief pitstop off Hwy 27 for a popular market in Avon Park known for their pizza and multiple soups served daily. While picking up our pizza, decorated with whole sliced pepperonis and large bacon strips, mom got to sample a bit of Split Pea soup and we picked up some fun jarred items to take home. It was a memorable weekend and with a total of 82 rivers complete, we will be prepping the camper for its own hibernation until March as we plan to Airbnb the next few trips in a row. Wishing you all some fun river adventures fellow river roamers!


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