Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Our sweet little Christmas tree is decorated with its glittered seashells, blue shiny ornaments, a real starfish, several small birds and blue and silver garlands. It stands proudly on the dinette in front of that big window. From the outside it looks way bigger than it is! The back picture window is dressed in blue and white lights with white poinsettias in each corner of the cornice boards. The bathroom vanity even has red poinsettias! H is thrilled. Not really. But he does like Christmas lights as you can tell from some of the past blog pictures!

Ocala Sun RV Resort on Hwy 484 is in the Passport America discount book and was our plug in to wifi and cable for three nights. As in a lot of RV resorts, the transients get relegated to an open field and are parked wall to wall. Even though we now have a “condo” we were still the smallest unit in the entire park! The folks were very hospitable and made us feel welcomed at their Christmas potluck dinner.

Dick and Sharon live in a gated community just 8 miles down the road from Ocala Sun and we knocked on their door more than once in those 3 days! My sister and I had a lot of catching up to do! The 4 of us shared some great eating times and as always, each Christmas season, S invites some of her good friends in for an evening of good food and great chatter! R&N, T &CJ, E&R- Thanks for including us! Neal’s mom sat in on the party this year! Neither H nor I have ever met someone who is 105!!

Christmas Day we joined D&S at the Maranantha Baptist Church and then back to their gorgeous home for the afternoon. Dick’s kids ( SPFB!) - son Rick, daughter Terri - the JUDGE and son in law John kept the afternoon in stitches, telling stories on their dad and on each other! Siblings! For a change – Sharon and I behaved! The dinner was scrumptious and we all ate wayyyyyyyyyyyy too much!

Our hope and prayer is that all our friends and family have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas Season this year and for your futures – peace and health!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Spring Time in the Forest

Spring Time in the Forest

It’s “Spring” time in the Ocala National Forest! This was a kickback, take it easy week so we’ve only seen this spring here at Salt Springs Recreation Area in this - one of favorite forests. The view as you come over the crest of the hill – the sparkling, forever dancing blue water that races out of the deep crevices and the tannic flavored river that lays beyond, still is a thrill after all these years. We, and everyone else except the engineers who designed this unnatural retaining wall, feel the ambiance of the natural spring has been compromised. In years past, mothers and little ones could just walk down into the shallow water at the far side of the spring and not worry about their small charges. Even us older grandmothers with their silly looking wet suits on, felt way more comfortable entering the water at a slower speed! SPFB to see me returning out of that spring! Now entry is confined to one slippery set of steps leading down into a much deeper colder amount of water that is definitely NOT suitable for little ones. And old ladies and slippery don’t mix well either! The spring itself is 72 degrees as it gushes up out of the rocks but when the air is cool, it doesn’t stay warm for very long as it passes from the spring area out into the pond and then the run to the river beyond. The weather has been very nice this week but it has reached mid 70’s during the day and then cools back down quickly as the sun starts to set. We missed the dip in the spring on Monday because it turned gray and cool early.

I’ve started walking a mile each morning and each afternoon we go for a bike ride around the park or out to investigate the mobile home park or the RV resort across the road to see how many homes and park spots are empty or for sale this year. H is positive that the number of signs is growing more each year. The grocery store is just down from the park as is the Sunoco gas station that houses the local Subway. We’ve made several trips to both! Milk is $4.29 a gallon if you need to know. A half-gallon is $2.99.

We’ve met some nice folks, too! Judy and Tommy, a retired Roadway driver, live in Burlington Kentucky. Since they’ve lived several places during his truck-driving career, he’s also driven to Toledo and remembers a friend of mine who also retired from Roadway! He and H got along just fine since they both have Ford trucks and tools and boats and . . . . . .

This past Monday, we actually managed to dig the kayaks out of their secure nest in the back of the truck. Here in the campground, all was peaceful and calm but once we got to the river’s edge – we felt the brisk cool wind and H had second thoughts about struggling with the tiny orange oblong buckets we call kayaks. Once out on the water and bouncing along with the choppy little waves we noticed a lot of areas that were all stirred up as if boats had just dug into the mucky bottom. MANATEES!! At least a half dozen of the big bulbous nosed creatures were pulling seaweed up from the river bottom and leisurely trying to enjoy lunch. Seemingly not sure of the bobbing orange shapes that resembled their own shapes, minus the huge mudflap tails, they came over to investigate! Can you only imagine the thrill of being captive in a very small 8 foot plastic bucket and having a 9-foot manatee nudge it with her nose?!! Like a small whale, one would come up out of the water and either rolled or dove again, flipping their broad tail up and out of the water.

Manatees are not the only neat creatures that we’ve been fortunate to see. One day while off exploring the back roads in the forest we encountered a magnificent bald eagle that flew in a zigzag manor up the sand road ahead of us and then perched in a tree across a field. As we crested one small hill, H exclaimed there was a bear ahead just over the next small hill! Sure enough – a rather LARGE black bear was lumbering across the road. Neither the eagle nor the bear wanted his picture taken and each moved just fast enough and stayed just out of good picture range. In the top of the tree next to our campspot, a Red Breasted Woodpecker was hammering out his nesting hole in a dead limb. As he ratcheted out the chips from his growing cavity, he splayed the mess down onto the neighbor’s awning and patio rug. We got the great view and they got to clean up his mess each day!

And folks here in Salt Springs campground have gotten into the holiday spirit, too! Some have their lampposts decorated; some have lights strung along their awnings. We have our tree sparkling atop our “dining room table” and from the outside looks like a full sized tree. One of the campground hosts has his entire motor home outlined in lights and has twinkle lights surrounding each wheel, making it look like the wheels are going round!

It’s been over a week now since we’ve parked in the forest and it’s time to move on to Ocala. Christmas is coming!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tomoka State Park

Tomoka State Park

Tomoka State Park is wedged between Route 1 and the Halifax River, which is also the Intercoastal Waterway. This 2000-acre “hammock” – thick THICK forest - is listed as one of the oldest in eastern Florida. Obviously, by the picture of the road on the way here, you can tell that it’s true! Here in the campground the sites are carved out of the woods and are surrounded by thick palmetto shrubs and covered with a canopy of live oaks and Spanish moss. The road thru the campground is narrow, winding and sand! But – the facilities are new and very nice! It’s our first time here – but they do not have any patches for my jacket. The “Outpost” is the general store/restaurant and the view of the lake is very peaceful – even on a gray rainy day. We had breakfast there on Monday morning. Pretty good biscuits and gravy!
Sunday afternoon we headed out to explore the local area as we normally do and ended up on the beach in Daytona Beach. H just has to get sand in those shiny new wheels! We found a spot to park and headed up and over the main street walkway to the Oceanside Mall. We finished up our stroll along the boardwalk and seawall between the fancy hotels and the pounding, roaring waves of the ocean. The beaches were pretty much void of pedestrians and instead were dotted with shorebirds and splattered with dead smelly seaweed.

While enjoying our “Buy One Get One” Whoppers it started to rain. It rained all afternoon. It rained ALL night! It rained all day Monday! According to the news, it has set a new record! Reminds me of the amounts of rain that Toledo and vicinity received during November! Even part of the seawall in Daytona Beach was to have been washed out – the only thing holding it together is the wooden steps over it.

Last evening we met out neighbors from the site next to us. Brenda and Jim left Alberta Canada last October and are touring the coastal states for 6 months! Of course – H shared some of his knowledge of his favorite parks and other places to see in Florida! Brenda’s accent was not nearly as defined as Barbee from British Columbia but still distinctive and brought back a slew of great memories of the times we spent with her, both here in Florida and in her native BC!!!

Tuesday morning we’ll hook up and pull back out onto the long road west to the Ocala National Forest! 56 miles – it’ll be a long day on the road, eh???

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Florida Part 1

Florida Part 1

We’re off again! It took 6 days to get to Florida this year!

H’s surgery was for a hernia and his surgeon released him on Friday December 2nd. On December 3rd we pulled out of the drive and settled in on I 75, heading south. After a 1-hour traffic delay in Cincinnati Ohio we finally moved on and arrived in Clinton Tennessee just before dark. Our annual breakfast at “Golden Girls” restaurant with Steve’s family was even at our same old table. Saturday evening Steve let us know that he had to work on Sunday but Melissa, Jessie and Kayla and Kayla’s 7-month-old son would be there! Dressed in denim cargo pocket jeans, green plaid shirt and camo cowboy boots that refused to stay on his feet, Ethan was the spitting image of Charlie Brown, only in miniature! After breakfast, we all drove over to Aisin Industries to visit with Steve for a few minutes before H and I unloaded Christmas gifts and then pointed the big blue truck south once more.

Route 441 is a great, picturesque alternative to driving thru Atlanta and our second night out we parked at Cross Creek Campground in Mountain City. A nice little campground – but the bathroom facilities were closed for the winter. Helen Georgia is a little town back in the hills that fell on hard times and remade itself into an alpine village – just like Frankenmuth Michigan. The road there would have been a great motorcycle ride but the dizzying narrow curves thru the deep woods was causing some concern about the return trip that would be in the dark. The town was aglow with twinkling lights and the scene was complete with several fancy carriages. Our concern about the return trip was solved when we checked the map and took a different path back to the highway and back to the campground. “Lily” (the GPS) was given the rest of the evening off!

Our next stop was Savannah and back to Skidaway Island State Park – here it is - - - SPFB! Historic Savannah was as charming as ever but not much in the way of historic Christmas lights. Jeykll Island, just down the coast a bit, was the next parking spot for our “condo”. We unloaded the new fold up bikes and attempted a ride to the historic downtown but the winds came up, the temps dropped and the ominous dark charcoal clouds moved in. Wisely, we turned around and got the bikes back in their nest in the truck before the sky opened up and the moisture came down.

Finally Florida! Old St Augustine did not disappoint with its magical display of a million sparkling white lights! All the commotion of traffic and lights didn’t seem to bother the placid carriage horses that dutifully pulled their master’s fares thru the congested town. We returned several times to stroll the old cobbled streets and peek into the eclectic selection of shops and boutiques. Saturday night was the 18th annual lighted boat parade. Lots and lots of blanket wrapped folks guarded the coquina stone walls lining the river to watch the several dozen vessels decked out with Christmas displays and lights strung gaily up their masts. The weather turned cold and damp once the sun had set and the winds were quite strong, causing choppy waters making it extremely difficult to control the boats and keep them in parade formation.

Onward again on Sunday morning! Tomoka State Park is just outside Ormond Beach and we have never been there. Neither had Lily and she took us down some back county roads with HUGE yellow signs warning of low tree limbs of 8 foot and a handful of inches. The “condo” is over 10ft tall! Nervously, H did not turn down the last road with that sign but turned the opposite way. As soon as possible H called the campground to see if we were indeed in trouble height wise and if we were even on the correct road. Deftly, H backed his “train” into a nearby driveway and turned around and headed back up the narrow, low, canopied road. No problem – the hurricane had taken out the low limbs on the live oaks that clung to the sides of the roadway but the signs had not be removed. We’ll be here for 2 nights. We’ve got some exploring to do!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fall Trip

Fall Trip

The fall is such a pretty time to pack up and go camping! It can be a scary time IF you have a new truck and new trailer to adjust to! There was quite a bit of “adjusting” to do on this trip.

When we returned home from our trip down to Cumberland Lake, H chose to not repair our beloved, yet aged 1994 Ford pickup but instead gave it a bath and put it out front with a for sale sign in the window. 15 minutes later it was sold. Since I would NOT give up my minivan, he had no choice but to trade in his Jeep Liberty. After test-driving the new Ford F150 4X4 with the ecoboost system – he had no trouble at all parting with his trusty green off road vehicle. And since the new BRIGHT BLUE truck will pull 9800 lbs, he also chose to go back out and find a bigger trailer. We no longer have a “mobile motel” – we now have a “rolling condo”! Compared to the Aerolite, this Rockwood Ultra Lite 2604 is HUGE!!

R&N also have gone to a bigger trailer this year and agreed to join us for our initial shake-down excursion. Their adjustment period is done because they have just returned from a gorgeous trip out west. We all met at the lovely campground at Sauder’s Village out in Archbold Ohio
Sitting side by side in the parking lot, the boys circled their respective new purchases to compare the differences and discuss the similarities like two teenage boys and their first hotrods. We went from a 7ft wide trailer to an 8ft wide: R’s is 7 ½ ft wide. His trailer box is 24ft long and H’s is 26. Ron went so far as to find his tape measure and checked heights, lengths and even the depths of the slides. Nancy and I sat and laughed at them both! Their new trailer is decorated in light tans and our “condo” has a 3ft slide equipped with a posh thick dark brown couch and matching dinette. I think H wanted this trailer because of the large windows that fill the back of the trailer wall and the two rocking easy chairs nestled in front of them!

Sauder’s Village is a collection of authentically restored pioneer homes and stores that over the years were discovered in the surrounding countryside and reassembled to form a model town that our ancestors could have, would have lived in. There is a pottery shop, a yarn shop, an herb store, a mercantile and even a train station. There’s a covered bridge on the lane that leads to the farm. Down another path is an Indian settlement complete with an interesting garden set-up called 3 sisters - plantings of corn, squash that grew to cover the base of the corn and beans to grow up the stalks.

Several “adjustments” to the condo have now been completed with a list of a few more to be addressed from the warmer weather of Florida when Harry will be fully recovered from his latest November surgery.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Summer 2011

Summer 2011

Where did the summer of 2011 go??? In June we drug the mobile motel behind the 1994 Ford pickup along Rt 66 to St Louis and followed the Mighty (still flooded and muddy) Mississippi River down to Cairo Illinois where the Ohio River joins it.

In July, Bud and Carol raced ahead of us to visit friends in Wisconsin and we lingered at home for H to go visit one of his growing collection of doctors. We pulled out on Friday and stopped overnight at the Otsego Lake State Park just SW of Gaylord Michigan. We were able to enjoy breakfast and a nice - but not nearly long enough – visit with Glenn and Beth before we pressed on and over the Mackinac Bridge and across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to meet up with B&C. Munising Michigan has wonderful pasties (yummy hot stew baked in tender flaky pie type crust sandwiches), great views of Lake Superior and IF you’re lucky – weather nice enough to enjoy a boat tour out to the colorful Pictured Rocks! Well, 2 outta 3 ain’t bad. But the day that B&C were to take their boat tour was a day full of thick blanketing fog that kept rolling in and out ALL day long! H and I were out exploring in the Jeep but talked to them via walkie-talkies right before the boat turned around and headed back to the dock. The next day we took them to see Miners Castle, one of the rock formations that they would have seen IF the ride had continued. On this trip, H had no off road competition going so he never got stuck and hence, never needed his brother to rescue him. Bud had to ride co-pilot and did seem a bit nervous whenever H sloshed down, around and thru some of those vehicle devouring, massive mud puddles! Especially when the Jeep was at a sideways tilt entering some of those dark brown, seemingly bottomless “ponds”!!

The month of August was a stay near home month so the grass was kept mowed and the garden was tended. Lots of sewing got done and lots of tomatoes canned Even managed a few leisurely bike rides!

September – school was back in session and the wanderlust hit hard! This time we headed south to Kentucky. B&C drove their motorhome and pulled our big boat, just as they have in the past. H pulled the truck out of storage and chose to put miles on it since he was going to use the Jeep again this winter when we head to Florida. There are hills in Kentucky! Some bigger than others! In the Lexington area, whenever pressure was applied to get the truck and trailer up or down a “hill”, the back of the truck began rattling and clanging and clunking. Do we go on or do we turn around? At each place we stayed, the guys lined up a transmission mechanic – just incase his services would be needed. Each time H backed the truck down the lonnnnnnnnnnng STEEP boat ramp, the question was – will it make it back up? And of course, the boat ramps were steeper than some of those other “hills” the truck had to strain to get up. Lake Cumberland was created back in the early 1950’s by damning up the Cumberland River, which caused it to fill up all the valleys and made a meandering snake of a lake, 100 miles long with over 1200 miles of shoreline, that wandered along sheer cliffs and snuck into a multitude of tree lined nooks and crannies. The weather held out and we enjoyed taking B&C on their first visit to the lake. In the two days on the lake we put on at least 80 miles! The Friday evening that we camped at Cumberland Lake State Park we lucked out and arrived in time to THOUROUGHLY enjoy to our VERY fullest, the seafood laden evening buffet! Oh My!! Crab legs, shrimp, catfish, more shrimp & crab legs, scallops, and yes, even those slimy oysters! And as the sun set over the peaceful lake, Carol and I tried to memorize the entire view from our high perch on the deck of the lodge.

From Jamestown and Somerset, we headed north to Frankfort, the capitol of the state. For H and I it was a case of SPB, but it was great to show our dear friends the views and sights of that neat town. We also decided to take them on a distillery tour because we had raved about our tour of Woodford Reserve several years ago. Our mistake was that we took them to a distillery that was closer to the campground where we were staying. H was hoping to get the truck back home before it quit all together yah know! Buffalo Trace Distillery was only a few miles away and is the oldest continually operating distillery from prohibition days. On the outside of the plant was the coolest painting. If you approach it from the right (see the picture) the angle of the picture faces you. As you pass it to the left – the picture angle follows with you! However - - the inside of the plant itself is loud, smelly and has 3 floors of open grated floors. Carol and I were both glad to get that tour over with. The guys weren’t even impressed with the bourbon that was offered as samples. Going out to dinner with Steve and Rachel made up for the bad taste in our noses and mouths! Now, hook onto this for a common thread - H, B and Mel (H’s buddy up in Michigan) all grew up together out in Swanton. H, Mel and Steve all went to Ohio University together! Anyway, it was wonderful to spend time with and introduce B&C to S&R!!

Between Frankfort KY and Madison Ind, the GPS took us north on some very narrow, up and down, winding 2 lane roads that had a lot of yellow paint down the middle. The scenery that was flashing by was full of red barns and colorful fall foliage but the guys did not get to enjoy much of it. H started going faster down hills so the truck would have a better running start up the next hill and would not rattle so much. Bud’s knuckles got pretty white, having to manhandle that milelong motorhome and boat around those curves. Ask Carol about crossing over the Ohio River on that extremely narrow old rickety bridge! She likes bridges about as much as she and I like open grated, 3 story high floors. NOT!! We all needed a break so we stopped for breakfast and a walking tour of that historic river town!

Once out of the “hills”, the truck quit clanking and just growled whenever pressure was applied. Yes, we did make it home! Three days later the truck was clean again and parked out in the front yard. 15 minutes later it was sold - - - bad differential and all.

H’s new love is a 2011 BRIGHT BLUE Ford F150, 4X4, complete with the new EcoBoost Engine. He traded in his beloved 2008 Jeep Liberty so our stable is down to only 2 vehicles. The new truck has a towing capacity of 9800lbs. Guess what he’s shopping for next! And the next trip will probably be to the sand dunes and/or the off road trails up north!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

RT 66

RT 66

No - we haven’t really been staying home since our return from Florida this past March. Come on – you should know H better than that by now. In Mid May we took a long weekend jaunt up to Holland Michigan, accompanied by H’s brother Ron and wife Nancy. The multitude of beautiful tulips in my own yard rivaled the gorgeous blooms we saw during our stay in Holland, but we HAD to go see the parade – and thankfully it quit raining about an hour before the costumed teens clomped their big wooden shoes, showing their well practiced talents at performing the many Dutch dances. Following the parade the 2 camping units hustled up the road to Silver Lake Sand Dunes. If I had written this back then, I would have said SPB (See Previous Blogs). The new thing on that trip was our “discovery” of SP Hoffmaster State Park, just south of Muskegon Michigan. It’s very easily one of our favorite state parks!

Now, it’s mid June and once again we are “going places we have never been”. Last year we followed the famous Lincoln Highway (RT 30) from mid-Ohio to the New Jersey border when we went to Cape May. Get ready – SPB!! Now we have driven west on route 20 from Toledo to South Bend Indiana. The Kankakee River runs right thru downtown South Bend and used to be the source of waterpower for several factories and mills along its banks. The river has been given a new life by building a fish ladder along the side of the dam and on another section a kayak racecourse, originally done for the Olympic training teams. I would love to show you beautiful pictures of it all, but the batteries in the camera were dead and the replacements were in the charger back at home. The Potato Creek State Park just south of town was our home for the night. On Tuesday morning we finally connected with the Lincoln Highway heading west to Joliet Illinois where it crossed the Historic RT 66. After stopping at the Welcome Center and Museum we walked around the city. From the city of Joliet we followed the old Rt. 66 southwest to St. Louis, stopping at many of the quaint old little towns that were the stopping points when Rt. 66 was the main road from Chicago to Los Angeles. Some of the old towns are still preserved as they were then and many of them have museums that show what the road was like when it was the “ mother road to the west”. Traveling thru Illinois one has to stop in Springfield. There we toured the Lincoln museum and library and the city checking out the state capitol and the old state capitol building and the law office where Lincoln practiced law.

Moving on from the St. Louis area we traveled south following the Mississippi River to where it joins up with the Ohio River. From there we followed the Ohio to central Indiana and headed northeast stopping in Knoxville, In. and Santa Claus, In. then back home to Michigan for awhile to plan for our next trip.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Florida 2010 - 2011 The last Chapter

Florida 2010 - 2011 The last Chapter

Yep, Savannah was on his mind and the “no see ums” at Skidaway Island State Park had our tender tanned flesh on theirs! Not to worry- we didn’t stay in the park very long since we only took time to get the trailer set up and then off to see Tybee Island to see if it had changed much since our last visit. We were going to stop on our way there to also see Ft Pulaski again but we were distracted by two monstrous ocean freighters that were passing each other in the waterway that led to the harbor of Savannah. What a sight and what a deep rolling wake they each presented to the rocky shoreline! It was a sunny, warm day in the high 80’s – and it was the start of Spring Break! The island traffic was maddening at times and the parking was ridiculous! The restaurants, streets and beaches were mobbed with scantily clad young women and tattoo adorned young men, some carrying their coolers, laden, no doubt, with the afternoon’s supply of beer.

Friday and Saturday was the St Patrick’s Day celebration in Savannah! Parking was free and we found a spot to park the appropriately colored green Jeep and walked thru the quaint old neighborhood to the bustling waterfront. The residential areas were relatively quiet except for those of us looking for a parking spot for our vehicles. The front of the houses lined the stone sidewalks just as they did all those many years ago. The backyards were enclosed with the head high walls of rustic old red bricks and one in particular caught my attention. It’s gas lamp was burning brightly in the cool shadow of the wall but cascading over the top was a beautiful flowing bush covered with a multitude of soft yellow mum like blooms! The sun was shining from the other side and through it, causing it to glow! Nah, H didn’t see it and would not have been as impressed as I was anyway! On the waterfront the big nautical themed fountain had been turned green during a special ceremony. The shops were all busy trying to sell their remaining supply of Shamrocks, silly green hats and even goofier green tee shirts! Most of the people wandering in and out and up and down the walkways were wearing green! The beer tents and restrants were doing a thriving business and the big tour boats, full of passengers, were on the move up and down the river. I imagine those folks were trying to cool off from the 93-degree temperature that hovered on shore! We grew tired of the crowds and the noise of the blaring sound systems so we drove away from the hustle and bustle and found a nice family restaurant called Hilliard’s for our quiet dinner.

Sunday morning arrived and we were up early, anxious to be on the road. And we were on that road all day long! When it’s time to go north – it’s time to go north. I don’t remember too much about that day except we ended up north of where my son and his family live. I was saddened that we would not be able to see them on this return leg of our journey but it was not to be. It was late in the day when we parked in Cove Lake State Park just off I75 and north of Clinton Tennessee. A good nights rest and we were on our way again on Monday morning.

Now, spring had arrived in Florida and the robins were flocking in Georgia. Things were turning green and trees and shrubs were blooming in South Carolina. Tennessee was still pretty brown – except for the daffodils that were blooming profusely in the median’s of the expressway and at all the rest areas. Kentucky was brown. Ohio was brown. Cincinnati was a nightmare! Four and five lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, most of it being semis and other large vehicles! Then there were all the potholes! At one spot a rather large box truck, following an even larger semi truck, decided to change lanes - without noticing that we were in the lane he chose to move to! H laid on the horn and locked the brakes and the truck driver swerved violently and then careened back into his own lane, just missing our front bumper. My heart raced and my chest pounded for many moments and several miles after that! Yes, I did offer several silent prayers of Thanks that we were able to avoid the collision with that truck or the looming cement wall in the next lane over. We made it to Michigan safely after that and H easily backed his rig into the driveway where it sat for the next several days.

Our Winter 2010-2011 Journey has come to an end; however, H is planning our next adventure already! I am happy just to get our yard cleaned up from all the ice and snow damage and to get our vegetable garden ready for planting! Snow Drops and Crocus are blooming and the tulips and daffodils are budding! I’ve even decorated the little maple tree out in the flowerbed with colorful Easter eggs!

See you all on the next trip!

Monday, March 28, 2011

NE Florida

NE Florida

Another new Florida State Park patch for my bright blue jacket! Favre-Dyke State Park has only 23 campsites and is at the end of a very long, very sandy, very winding, very narrow tree lined single lane forest road right off of Rt 1, 17 miles south of St Augustine. Once settled in, it was time to go explore the beaches! From Anastasia State Park, south to the inlet you can still drive your 4x4 vehicle on the wide flat sandy beach. During the day the charge is $7 but after 5pm the drive is free! The really nice lady at the guard desk said to come back after 4:30pm and she would look the other way! 40 minutes of shopping and we were back, waving to her as she left her post, her shift for the day being done. The speed limit on the beach is 10 mph and is one way – south. In the distance we saw a colorful semi circular kite weaving back and forth across the beach. As we approached, we found, anchored to the bottom of the kite lines, a young man whose feet looked buckled to a rather large skateboard with oversized wheels. It was like watching the Olympic snowboarders zinging from one side to the other and flipping up and around, grabbing their boards as they hung in mid air. So was this young man as he wove across the sand and back, leaning into the kite lines to change his direction.

Sunday was Flea Market Day in St Augustine! What a bunch of “stuff”! And we didn’t buy any of it, but it was fun to look. Instead we donated some funds to Wal-Mart and got the oil changed in the Jeep since there was no trailer attached and the change was overdue.

On Monday we had a very long road trip ahead of us – 50 miles from St Augustine to Jacksonville - but H still took his time and enjoyed his morning pot of fresh brewed coffee and the Good Morning America show on TV. Up Rt 1 we went and over to A1A, then north to Jacksonville along the Atlantic coast sometimes lined with dunes and tall sea oats and sometimes the view was completely blocked by ritzy homes with fancy landscaping and steep cement driveways. Ron had told H about a very nice city park that was right on the ocean and we headed there!

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park has a full hook up campground of 293 sites, a nature preserve, 3 levels of off road bike trails, hiking trails, a 33 acre fresh water lake and a mile of Atlantic coast beaches. The wooden boardwalks that led to the beach were lined with the Live Oak trees, whose dark limbs stretched out like knarly witch’s fingers entwined and dripping with silvery Spanish moss, so reminiscent of many Northern Florida/ Southern Georgia back roads.
Our next stopover on our slow trip north was Ft Clinch State Park on Amelia Island in the extreme northeast corner of Florida. The 3 miles from A1A to the campground amazed me at each of our entering and exiting! When the sun was shining, only a portion of the sunny rays managed to make it thru the under-canopy of mossy doilies being held aloft by those knarly fingers! While at Ft Clinch we toured the old fort again but this time without the really neat young corporal tour guide. The fort is in a constant state of being restored but it still was familiar and brought back fond memories of when we were there with R&N! We walked the beach and strolled all the way out on the lengthy fishing pier that extended out into the ocean. I took more pictures and gathered more seashells! And of course we HAD to check out the touristy little town of Fernandina! See our Previous Florida Blogs to see the fort and more details of the area! And double click the photos to enlarge them!

From Amelia Island it was back to the mainland and, sadly, north out of Florida. Savannah is on H’s mind!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ocala National Forest

Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest is home to Florida’s biggest and prettiest natural springs! Alexander Springs is one of the top 2! 72 million gallons of crystal clear water a day!! The large dark blue basin is a magnet for snorkel and scuba divers alike! And we were drawn to it each of the 3 days we stayed in the campground. The edges are lined with waving sea grasses teeming with curious varieties of sunfish and ones that look almost like a perch! Even with my bright blue snorkel mask and big long fins – if I just floated quietly – they would come right up and peck at my outstretched wiggling fingers. On one of our swims, we followed 3 scuba divers out and marveled at the sight of them heading deeper and deeper into the blue water while the tiny air bubbles from their oxygen tanks floated back up to the sunshine at the top.

The park has a nifty nature boardwalk that follows around the spring and has 2 fishing piers /resting areas along the way. The birds were singing and the sun was sparkling down thru the newly green leaves of the forest. No snakes and no alligators were seen on this visit! SPFB!! We even took time one afternoon to go find some “two-tracks” to go explore! One of them actually ended up at a very primitive boat launch of sorts. Across the river were several tire and rope swings strung up over the slow chugging river run that originally started at Alexander Springs. Would you believe it – there was another guy out there who didn’t know where the road was going either! H had to get out his Florida Gazetteer to make sure of where we were and where to go from there. . From there we trudged thru or maneuvered around a lot of deep rutted mud holes and puddles! We know of another certain Jeep owner who would like to navigate those mud tracks

The campgrounds in most of the national forests have no electricity and no water at each site. “Dry camping” is no problem – as long as the weather is warm!! The “mobile motel” has a gas furnace for a quick warm up in the morning and a tank of fresh running water with the flick of the pump switch and a turn of the faucet! For TV watching and lights there are 2 mega batteries under the couch! AND – H was sure glad that he invested in his latest prized possession – his 2000-watt Honda Generator, which insures that he can have his fresh brewed coffee in the mornings while we were in the forest.

We were hoping to move up to Salt Springs, which has lots of electricity at each campsite to solve the colder weather problem, but they were full so we moved instead to Juniper Springs Campground to continue our “dry camping” trend. Juniper Springs is the closest National Park campground to Ocala so H made a phone call to set up a breakfast date for the next morning at Bob Evans. We enjoyed a great breakfast with D&S and followed it with boring grocery shopping!

Not wanting to leave the forest right away, and since Salt Springs was full we headed north to the edge of the forest and stopped for one night at the Rodman Dam Reservoir Campground. The campground is actually part of the Florida Greenway, just like Ross Prairie is on the south west side of Ocala where we stayed on the beginning of our winter journey as we headed south. Rodman is located right on the Cross Florida Barge Canal, which was originally dug to run from each side of Florida. The east section starts on the St John’s River but quits just west of Dunnellon. Like the Erie Canal up in Ohio – did progress move too fast or did the funds to complete the project too slow? Now the Canal is a freeway for pleasure boats, including the fast moving bass boats that sprayed wide spreading white water as they sped upstream in an early morning Bass Tournament.

Once out of the forest, it will really be official – we’re heading north – to North Florida!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wekiwa & Rock Springs

Wekiwa & Rock Springs

If anyone has been watching the national news, by now you have heard about the “Iron Horse Wildfire” that had been burning out of control in east/central Florida for almost the last week. Parts of I95 and Rt 1 have been closed on and off several times. Since everyone knows where Orlando is in Florida and where the Kennedy Space Center/ Cape Canaveral is, I will use those two well known places as points of reference. The fire started north of Kennedy and Merritt Island, where H and I went to explore, while staying in Moss Park. I95 and Rt 1 run north /south, parallel to each other, from Miami and all along the Atlantic side of the state. Orlando is in the center of the state and the town of Opopka is just north of it. The fire is about 50 miles east of where we are. The news reports today have been stating that we should be seeing smoke and ashes but it has rained on and off all afternoon so we have seen nothing. We are in no danger and finally the fires are getting under control. No lives lost and only one young fireman was injured.

Wekiwa Springs State Park is just on the outer limits of Apopka and is the headsprings for the Wekiwa River. The drive from the main gate to the campsites is a combination of pine and oak woods, dispersed with fields of waving grasses. The campsites are good sized and most are secluded niches carved out of the Palmetto jungle. The spring itself is down in a fairly good-sized “valley” with a great view of the run that leads to the Wekiwa River just around the bend. Lots of canoe’ers rent boats and paddle up to the bridge at the edge of the swimming area. The swimming area is on average about 4-5 ft deep and on the weekend, full of kids and families. On Sunday we assisted in the crowding of the cool waters and on Monday the “pond” was a lot quieter and just a few adults took turns at cooling off! 42 million gallons per day of crystal clear water flow out from the deep dark blue crevice where brave teenage boys show off by diving down into its dark depths. We stayed for 2 nights before moving 7 miles, up and around the corner to Kelly Springs, which is an Orange County Park, just like Moss Park. The price for camping is much more affordable in the county parks!

Kelly Park was donated to the county in 1927 as a park and wildlife sanctuary, and is the location of Rock Springs, a natural free-flowing 37.5 million gallon a day spring which meanders a winding 9 miles to the Wekiwa River. On our last visit here, we floated/ snorkeled down the ¾ mile run within the park proper but since the temps have cooled down just a bit, we felt the 68 degree water was just a bit chilly, so instead, H and I watched an otter frolic in the stream and then watched as a few boisterous groups floated on down scaring him back into the lily pads! We’ve been exploring the small neighboring towns and exercising our bikes around the roads and paths in the park. We’ve walked some of the trails, spotted a few deer and even tried to sneak close enough to some strutting turkeys to get their picture. We were hoping that this one pompous Tom would pay more attention to his “ladies” and not see us. No such luck

Another week has come and now gone. The locals have now filled the campground for the weekend and the parking lots down by the spring are full of vehicles, packed with ice chests and inner tubes. For us it was off to the flea markets up in Mt Dora and then over to Sanford where we found a good sized RV show that filled a whole section of a mall parking lot and then a Red Lobster for lunch. H even got to go thru a hobby store and I shopped at a Joann’s. Too bad their sale starts tomorrow.
When Sunday gets here – we’ll leave Kelly Springs and move 35 miles north to Alexander Springs in the Ocala National Forest. (Sigh) It must be “SPRING” time! (Sorry)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sebastian Inlet To Melbourne

Sebastian Inlet To Melbourne

The road from Moss Park to Sebastian Inlet weaves from St Cloud, to I 95 in Melbourne, south to Sebastian and over the bridge to the barrier islands that protect the mainland and back north to the Sebastian Inlet State Park and it’s distinctive two jetties that reach far out into the crashing Atlantic Ocean waves. Every day, each jetty is lined with hopeful folks hoping to successfully hook and reel in the great catch of the day. The longer jetty on the north side is braced with cement and has huge (at least 8 ft across), scary, OPEN grates that taunt those folks who walk over them (well, me anyway!) with the possibility of falling down thru any one of the 2 inch wide openings into the crashing surf below. The Inlet itself is a great place to watch boats drifting and fishing to whichever way the tide is going and also the glistening white charter fishing craft with their tall flying bridges and vertical stacked fishing equipment, heading for the deep blue open water of the Atlantic. Each day, H and I walked from the campground, along the winding sidewalk, past the fishing pier and the patiently waiting pelicans and wood storks, up past all the benches, lined up and facing the waterway, to the jetties and the stately bridge that rises elegantly up and over the blue water.

Thursday, February 24th was the long anticipated launching of the Discovery Space Shuttle. The day started clear and the sky was blue with only a 20% chance of rain later that afternoon. H decided we should drive the 20 miles north and join R&N at the Melbourne Beach and watch the lift off from there instead of from the break-wall at the state park. Unfortunately, it was hazy up along those crashing waves of salt water and a lot of other folks had decided to join R&N on the beach also! Then the gray clouds started rolling in from the west. The later the hour, the more cloudy the sky got, and more crowded the beach became. N was watching her cell phone for the official Nasa countdown when we almost missed the whole launch!! Someone in the standing room only crowd yelled, “ There it is!” I was standing behind a broad shouldered man and didn’t see where the fast rising shuttle was coming from, so H grabbed my shoulders and yanked me to the left and said “ There!” Just in time, I clicked a picture before the small but bright glow disappeared into the dark clouds. Disappointed a bit – but at least we saw it! From there we made a quick escape from the parking lot and met R&N at a really good Mexican restaurant down A1A. I don’t think I’ve ever had spinach in any enchilada before!

From Sebastian Inlet, back up A1A to Melbourne and across town to Wickham Park – one of H’s favorite campgrounds, was Friday’s project. SPFB – again! This large county park has 2 lakes for swimming and for model boat sailing races, an equestrian center, plenty of picnic and playground areas, and a Frisbee golf course, besides the two camping loops. The politics of the campground have not improved over the last few years and it upset H tremendously. There were several empty spots in both “electrical” loops and still we were stuck in the overflow area – a big bare field with lots of tenters (homeless?) and weekend partiers. In spite of all that, the one bright spot out in the field was the Gopher Tortoise that H found trying to make a “quick run” from the anthill dotted field to the woods on the opposite side of the fence. H interrupted his bid for freedom and held him while I snapped his picture several times.

Thankfully, we spent the whole day Saturday out of the park! Breakfast at Subway, then, off to the flea market where the boys went their way and we two girls got to shop without any male pressure! The guys headed off to the nearby gun club to try their skill at the skeet range while N and I headed for our favorite drapery/upholstery store that just happens to have fantastic prices. Dinner that night was at Fishbone Willy’s – more seafood, of course!

Sunday morning we said our good-byes to R&N over another good Subway breakfast sub. Ohhhhhh, they are tasty! We’re heading north to Apopka and Wekiwa Springs State Park.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011